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This review is from: Following [DVD]  (DVD)
Before the release of the critically acclaimed cult classic Memento, Christopher Nolan made his feature film debut with the London based neo noir Following. Made in a similarly distorted fashion to its better known big brother, Following displays early signs of a talented film maker yet to fully hone his skills. Here we see a director showing a raw grittiness in their debut work that is reminiscent of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets.
Produced on a shoe string budget of a mere £6000 over the course of a year's worth of weekends, Following runs for a mere 70 minutes. However this short film packs a punch with its daring approach to a hackneyed and clichéd genre. Shot in black and white it bares all the hallmarks of the classic Film Noir formula; the untrustworthy femme fatale, the morally ambiguous hero, the strong arm gang boss and the manipulative villain. Also as with classic Noir's such as Out of the Past, Following refuses to give its hero a happy ending and the satisfaction of the film comes from the way in which the story is told and not in its conclusion. Nolan is largely successful in his manipulation of the narrative of what other wise would be a boring and formulaic film. However this can not be a criticism because it is obvious he intended from the beginning to tell his story in such a way. Piece by Piece we are allowed to fit the puzzle together as the film jumps back and forth in time. Nolan uses the appearance of the protagonist Bill (Jeremy Theobald) to indicate where in the story we are, one moment he is long haired and scruffily dressed the next he has a sharper haircut and a bruised face. Nolan leaves us intrigued to discover who and why has given him such a beating and we are ultimately satisfied as the story unfolds. He displays a great dexterity with his mobile camera work which often has a voyeuristic feel. Of course Voyeurism is a major theme throughout the film. Bill is essentially a stalker who deludes himself into believing he is researching for his book. Cobb works under the pretence of being a burglar but is actually more interested in uncovering the secrets of other people and the theme even continues with the photos Bill is unwittingly tricked into stealing. Despite the fact Following was filmed in London, the capital is unrecognisable and murky. There is no sign of the houses of Parliament and Big Ben, a shot of which most London based films compulsively include. Instead we linger in grotty apartments and a smoky bar with the sensation of uncomfortably viewing events through a peephole.
The ending is cleverly crafted and the plot twist within a twist is genuinely unexpected. There is a slight feeling however that for all Nolan's ingenuity in displacing the narration he is merely covering up for the fact that it is a fairly uninspiring story. With Memento, Nolan had a genuine reason for muddling up events as we followed the story of a man who was incapable of creating new memories. Here the reasoning for this device is unapparent and although it is done very cleverly within the context it can be seen as a bit of a gimmick. Nevertheless, for a first film made with such a miniscule funds, Following is compulsive viewing and evidence that cinema can be just as, if not more, inspiring without a multi million dollar budget.
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Initial post: 10 Feb 2013 11:27:02 GMT
Dr Gonzo says:
Actually about $6000 (it was about £3,000)
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